It’s breath-taking! No wonder this majestic site is also known as “Smoke That Thunders”.
The spray shoots over 400 meters in the air and can be seen from 30 kilometers away. It is twice the height of Niagara Falls.
There’s no doubt about it. Victoria Falls is massive and awe-inspiring.
The Zambezi River, which originates in northern Zambia, feeds these mighty falls. During the wet season, over 500 million liters of water crash down over the edge per minute.
Victoria Falls, with its ever-present rainbows, is a gorgeous site to behold. It’s no wonder several hundred thousand people visit the falls each year.
Smoke That Thunders
Scottish explorer Dr. David Livingstone is believed to be the first European to view the falls. When first coming across the falls in 1855, he reportedly said, “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
David Livingstone by Frederick Havill
Livingstone named the falls after Queen Victoria, who was the monarch at that time.
But well before Livingstone, the falls had another name. In the Kololo language, the falls are aptly named Mosi-oa-Tunya—meaning “smoke that thunders.”
The World Heritage List officially recognizes both names.
Exploring the Falls
Here are a few of the numerous ways to explore Victoria Falls:
- Walk the various trails– There are numerous trails on both sides with impressive vistas, but the Zimbabwean side affords the best panoramic view. Baboons and warthogs are common in the area, so you may catch a glimpse.
- Take a train– Hop on the Royal Livingstone Express—a luxury and historic train that offers lunch and dinner trips
- From the air– Take in the sheer magnitude of the falls from a helicopter. You may even see elephants and other wildlife. For added excitement—fly over in a microlite (a small glider-like plane with a motor).
The Royal Livingstone Express
Feeling More Daring?
Obviously for most people it’s enough to gaze at the falls and absorb the surrounding natural beauty. But for those looking for more, the area around Victoria Falls offers a variety of activities for adventure travelers and adrenaline junkies.
Devil’s Pool is a natural rock pool on the very edge of Victoria Falls. During the dry season, it’s shallow enough for people to safely swim in it. A natural rock wall, just below the surface, stops swimmers from plunging over the edge. Obviously this is not for the faint of heart, and you have to be a strong swimmer to even get there.
Experience Swimming in Devil’s Pool
Imagine having your guide hold onto your ankles as you scoot out to the rim and peer over the precipitous drop to watch the water crash on the rocks 100 meters below.
If you’re not scared of heights, there’s no shortage of activities. How about bungee jumping off the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe? No doubt you’ll feel your heart pumping as you plunge 111 meters into the gorge. Or perhaps you’d like to try rappelling down a cliff or shooting down a high-wire zip line.
For something lower down— but just as exciting—you can go white-water rafting on the Zambezi River to truly feel its power.
A Delicate Balance
All of the activities and tourist attractions that crowd the area around Victoria Falls are fun, but don’t lose sight of what’s truly special. And that of course is the mighty waterfall itself.
The Shona people are the largest ethnic group in Zimbabwe. Today they are known for their beautiful soapstone carvings, although it’s a relatively new art form for them. Zawadee – Bring Africa Home offers a collection of these intricate carvings, including gorgeous serving bowls infused with vivid colors and images of wildlife.